THE 2023 FNQ Emergency Services Association (FNQESA) Charity Gala Ball raised $65,000, their highest donation to date with proceeds going to local charity the Fire Project, managed by youth outreach organisation Harbrow Mentoring.
Recently retired FNQESA committee president John-Byron Bacalakis presented the record-breaking sum to Harbrow Mentoring founding director Marc Harbrow at Southern Cross Austereo on 5 October.
The Fire Project assists in diverting young people from unstructured and unsupported environments where they may be at risk of offending or reoffending. Tailored programs empower youths and give them the chance to create a brighter future.
Mr Harbrow said the donation would go towards securing a dedicated vehicle for the Fire Project, helping them to transport the youths they work with to and from activities.
“A big part of the Fire Project is transportation and we’re always borrowing other companies’ vehicles.
“Now we will be able to transport young people to safer environments, to sports, and to programs, with our own people mover.
“We want to say a massive thanks and express our appreciation for the Cairns community and for the FNQ Emergency Services Association for this incredible support.
“The funds raised absolutely blew our minds.”
Harbrow Mentoring projects manager Esther Gaffney said their own mode of transportation would be crucial to the Fire Project’s programs.
“This support from the community feels like confirmation that we’re on the right track with what we do,” she said.
Mr Bacalakis said the handover of the funds from his final gala ball as president was a bittersweet moment.
“It’s very bittersweet and sad to be handing over the reins to the ball,” he said.
“It will go a long way towards what they can do for the Cairns community.
“It’s such an honour to have been able to give back to the community as the FNQ Emergency Services Association.”
Mr Bacalakis has retired as committee president after nine years at the helm and is enjoying a sea change in Weipa with his family – but hopes to make it back to Cairns for the gala ball in 2024.
According to Mr Bacalakis, the FNQESA committee selected beneficiaries each year with a community focus and a special interest in smaller charities who would benefit greatly from the support.
“It always revolved around the Cairns community,” he said.
“We love organisations like Harbrow Mentoring as well as previous beneficiaries such as Rosies, Kick On, and the Dr Edward Koch Foundation – the smaller ones, the underdogs.
“A lot of them have had something to do with emergency services as well – the Fire Project helps to get kids off the street, which diverts them from other activities.”
Mr Bacalakis expressed his gratitude to the Cairns community for the near-decade of support for his gala ball, which he initiated after the Ravenshoe café explosion in 2015 as a way of raising much-needed funds to help those affected and their families.
“I’d like to thank the Cairns community and everyone who has supported the event and what we’ve done over the last nine years – it’s been a phenomenal trip,” he said.
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